The art of tarot cards has been a popular form of mysticism and spiritual practice for
centuries. It’s been notoriously depicted and portrayed as an archaic practice tied to the occult.
While we are aware of this famous practice all around the globe, few people know about the true roots of the cards, and that Viterbo was actually the first city to adopt this practice in the western world. If you know where to look, traces of this archaic art have had a longstanding influence on this small city and its people.
Tarot was brought directly to Viterbo from the Islamic countries during the crusades near
the end of the 13th century. It’s easy to understand the magnetic attraction to these cards that the Templar must’ve felt when they chose to bring the game back to Italy. These 78 cards are often referred to as a “soul map”, and are used as a tool to aid the user in seeking spiritual enlightenment.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Cinzia Chiulli, who runs a small ceramic studio in the
San Pellegrino Quarter with her husband. She was both delightful and captivating to speak with, and her profound knowledge of both tarot and the history of Viterbo made her passion contagious. She harnessed this knowledge by creating the artwork for her own tarot deck, which she kindly shared with me. Each of the card designs correlated both to the traditional meaning of that card and an image historically significant to Viterbo. Cards depicting The Witches of Montecchio, the Damiata Tower, Pope Alexander IV and various other iconic images pertaining to this city. Through listening to Cinzia’s descriptions of all the people and places she chose to use in her imagery, I felt more connected to the rich history of this town. Walking around and experiencing the nightlife and day to day culture, it’s easy to forget the historical importance of this land; though it lives on in the architecture, museums, art, and most importantly, the people.
Some people have not forgotten however, and it has been an absolute delight to have
experienced Cinzia’s artistic and historical knowledge and passions. It has allowed me to gain perspective of this city and my time spent here.
My name is Hannah Ferguson and I am a senior at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I will be graduating this December with a Bachelors in Art History. I chose to take my last semester abroad so that I could fully immerse myself in Italian culture and language. I’m excited to experience the art and culture that I have spent my time in college only ever reading about, and very excited use these experiences in my postgraduate life!
Mi chiamo Hannah Ferguson e sono una studentessa presso l’Università del Nevada, Las Vegas. Mi laureerò questo dicembre con una laurea in storia dell’arte. Ho scelto di fare il mio ultimo semestre all’estero per potermi immergere completamente nella cultura e nella lingua italiana. Sono entusiasta di sperimentare l’arte e la cultura con cui ho condiviso il tempo al college leggendo e studiando. Sono molto entusiasta di poter continuare a coltivare queste esperienze nella mia vita post-laurea!
My name is Sebe Shearer and I am from Texas, United States. I am studying history with a minor in Italian at the University of Houston. I am doing a semester abroad in Italy to learn more about the Italian language and also explore its rich culture. It has always been my dream to come here and experience a place with so much history, especially coming from a country that is so new in the grand scheme of things. I feel so incredibly lucky to have this opportunity.
Mi chiamo Sebe Shearer e vengo dal Texas, Stati Uniti. Sto studiando storia in italiano all’Università di Houston. Adesso sto vivendo un semestre all’estero in Italia per saperne di più sulla lingua italiana ed esplorare anche la sua ricca cultura. È sempre stato il mio sogno venire in Italia e vivere un luogo con così tanta storia, soprattutto venendo da un paese così nuovo nel grande schema delle cose. Mi sento incredibilmente fortunata ad avere questa opportunità.